Story URL:
Story Retrieval Date: 4/17/2015 12:21:22 PM CST

Top Stories

Some question future of stimulus-funded anti-violence programs

by Chris Neary
Oct 21, 2009

A new anti-violence plan from Chicago Public Schools may have a solid statistical base, but future funding is not so firm.

The murder of Derrion Albert in late September brought attention to a Chicago Public Schools program aimed at providing services including mentoring and part-time jobs to 200 students identified as being most likely to be shot.

The idea is to intervene both in and out of school in the lives of these students, who, according to a probability model developed by the district, have a better than 20 percent chance of being shot.

Kenneth Trump, a school safety consultant based in Cleveland, said that while the district’s enthusiasm for data is admirable, identifying which students will be involved in violent acts is not the most pressing problem in solving school violence.

“Most second grade teachers can identify those students who are 'at risk for violence,” said Trump. “The problem has always been, what do you do once they’re identified?”

Under the plan, identified students will have 24-hour access to a mentor, be placed in a job and get regular assessments by social workers and counselors. The families of these students will also be given access to some services.

But the future of the program is murky. Initially, federal stimulus money will pay for the plan. Chicago Public Schools received $368 million from the stimulus, which will be dispersed this year and next. After that money is gone, no more is promised.

It is premature to discuss what may or may not happen without stimulus money, a CPS spokesperson said in an email.

Trump said that for programs that aim to intervene in every aspect of a student’s life, sustained funding is key.

“The question is what’s sustainable. The resources being put forward today, will they still be there down the road? In most cases they’re not. We have roller-coaster public awareness, public policy and public funding,” Trump said.

David Cassel has more than a decade of experience trying to reduce youth violence in Chicago. He said that the lack of sustained funding not only threatens services, it erodes trust.

“Any time you’re engaging disenfranchised people, like young people of color, when you stop providing services that were keeping them on the right track, not only do they lose the services, they become less confident in the system that’s there to help,” he said.

Cassel is the executive director of the Alliance of Local Service Organizations, a group that runs the CeaseFire program in Logan Square and Humboldt Park. CeaseFire aims to reduce shootings by connecting communities and designing anti-violence interventions. In the past, Cassel said, gaps in funding have led to his organization losing 20 to 30 clients at a time.

The CeaseFire programs in Logan Square and Humboldt Park have yet to receive state funding this year, he said.

Chicago Public Schools face a projected budget deficit of $475 million in 2010 - the same year stimulus money will run out.